Archive

Large scale document archive

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the files

Secret no more

 

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/1247 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 4) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Mar 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/912 Security ('Doomsday Minus Four' by Larry Clark) 1982 Jan 14 1982 Jan 15 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/2592 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; Channel 4; community radio) (Part 3) 1988 May 3 1989 Dec 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2076 Downing Street (Organisation and function of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit: access to papers by members of the Policy Unit; relations with the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Feb 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2732 Hungary (Visits to the UK by Prime Ministers Karoly Grosz, (May 1988) and Miklos Nemeth (December 1989)) 1987 Jul 28 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1847 Defence (Higher organisation for defence) 1984 Feb 24 1986 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 5
PREM19/2428 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for Prime Minister: general topics) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Mar 4 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1911 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to South Korea and to Japan for Tokyo Economic Summit, May 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Jul 14 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/2588 Australia (UK/Australian relations: internal situation) (Part 2) 1986 Jan 3 1989 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1768 Government Buildings (Edward Erdman Surveyors report on the redevelopment of the Bridge Street site) 1983 Feb 1 1986 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2337 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; Community Care Review) (Part 11) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Apr 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3110 Parliament (Parliamentary scrutiny of European Community legislation: UK representation in European Community institutions; House of Commons links with the European Community) 1980 May 7 1990 Oct 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2467 Regional Policy (London Docklands Development Corporation: dismissal of John Mills as deputy chairman) 1985 Jul 18 1987 Dec 10 Retained Closed for 51 years
PREM19/1688 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM), Nassau, Bahamas, October 1985) (Part 10) 1985 Oct 10 1986 Aug 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1345 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: proposals for Post Office counters network; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; British Telecom (BT) licence; Mercury Communications Ltd) (Part 8) 1984 Jan 12 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3

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